My wife and I were having a disagreement about goats for the past couple of days. It wasn’t really about goats. But it involved goats.
This seems to be how things go in my life, and I assume the same is true in your life. We feel things. These things come up in relationship with others. So in an effort to communicate about them and figure things out so as to live harmoniously, we come up with stories.
But the stories are always around the actual matter. They don’t get to the heart of it.
Anyway, until we got to the heart of the matter, we were having this conflict that had to do about goats. And I was feeling frustrated and discouraged.
When I first got into the whole meditation, self-help, spiritual thing, I did it because I wanted to escape my unwanted feelings.
I didn’t realize it at the time, of course. And had you asked me, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage or the insight to be able to admit it. But in hindsight, it’s clear that I just wanted to escape stuff I didn’t like.
Like frustration, stuckness, discouragement. Plus anxiety, anger, fear, worry, obsessiveness, low self-esteem, etc.
When I was 19, a friend of mine loaned me a Ken Cohen qi gong meditation cassette tape. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again.
I listened to that tape. I think I’d probably burned some sage that I’d gotten at the new age bookstore first. Then I listened to the tape. Eyes closed. And I followed along with the guided meditations.
I had an experience that blew my mind. After some time…maybe half an hour of the guided meditation, I disappeared.
It was a bit like I had fallen asleep. Deep sleep. And maybe I did fall asleep. I guess that’s possible. And maybe I just made up a story upon waking that something else had happened.
But in a sense, it doesn’t matter because waking from deep sleep is kind of the same thing. Not there. But…but…but upon waking realizing that I was there. Just not the usual way I have identified as being this person, this collection of memories, this collection of ideas and beliefs. But still there. Still present so that upon waking I could say, “I was just in deep sleep” or, in this case, “I just had some far out, mind-blowing meditation experience.”
Anyway, I got hooked. Because that experience was so profoundly restful and such a paradigm shift for me.
And because I was convinced (though I wasn’t fully aware of this at the time) that if I could somehow attain that experience while simultaneously maintaining a sense of my habitual identity (i.e. still claiming that I am the source of my own experience as a separate person)…well…then I’d get rid of all the unpleasant, unwanted experiences/feelings.
I tried so many things to attain what I thought I wanted. I’ve listed them off plenty of times, but it’s fun, so I’ll list a few yet again: Rebirthing (i.e. hyperventilation), LSD, Transcendental Meditation, affirmative prayer, kirtan, Holosync (a very expensive binaural beats meditation program), sitting in satsang with every teacher I could find.
Sometimes I got a taste of that same goneness-but-present experience. But since I still had unpleasant/unwanted feelings that returned, I thought that something “hadn’t worked”. Because, after all, I assumed that when “it worked”, I wouldn’t have unwanted feelings anymore…ever.
For such a long, long time I chased after this fantasy. I wanted to get to continue to hold on to all my dysfunctional ideas of who I am, what I need, how important I am, how I’m right…and simultaneously be happy. And furthermore, I had this dysfunctional and deluded idea that happiness meant an absence of disharmony or conflict or unpleasantness.
Yesterday, as I was feeling frustrated and discouraged, I reflected on what it is that I really want. Not what I think I want – which is the absence of disharmony, conflict, and unpleasantness. Rather, what I really want.
As in, what actually is satisfying.
The answer to this question is at once completely surprising and completely expected.
What I really want is exactly what is happening.
Because life isn’t about acquisition. It’s not about winning. It’s not all about me, my ideas, my preferences, my wants, my hedonism, my impatience.
Life is about this present relationship. This is what truly satisfies.
All I have to do is say yes to it.